Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, on Sunday night accused President Donald Trump of firing him over the impartial way he handled the whistleblower complaint that eventually led to Trump’s impeachment.
“It is hard not to think that the President’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General, and from my commitment to continue to do so,” Atkinson said in a statement.
He said his job was to make sure whistleblowers had the “effective and authorized means” to alert Congress of wrongdoing, and that whistleblowers would not face retaliation for doing so.
“Inspectors General are able to fulfill their critical watchdog functions because, by law, they are supposed to be independent of both the Executive agencies they oversee and of Congress,” the official said.
Trump fired Atkinson on Friday, saying he no longer had “the fullest confidence” in the inspector general whom he had hired, and later accused Atkinson of doing “a terrible job.”
After a whistleblower had submitted a complaint about Trump’s infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in July, during which Trump had tried to pressure the latter into announcing an investigation into 2020 rival Joe Biden, Atkinson handed the complaint to the higher chain of command, per protocol.
It was that whistleblower complaint that kicked off the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment investigation into Trump’s pressure campaign against Ukraine.
Trump grew angry with Atkinson as a result, complaining in November that the investigation was a “situation that was caused by people that shouldn’t have allowed it to happen.”